Raising alpacas for fun and/or profit. A very brief overview for the future alpaca breeder.
When I tell people I have purchased alpacas, they ask me why. Alpacas are easy to care for, have luxurious fiber and are easy on their environment. I have done my research, and through some personal experience with cattle have decided alpacas are also easier on my body. I have been pinned by cattle; not a good feeling!
Alpaca fleece is very soft, and hypo-allergenic. It does not contain any lanolin like sheep's wool, which is the culprit of the itch factor. Items made from alpaca fleece are warm and lightweight. Alpaca fleece comes in 22 natural colors and can be easily dyed any other colors. Note: when dying alpaca yarn for a project, be sure to dye enough for the entire project at the same time as the shade may differ from batch to batch.
Breeding or Fiber
When raising alpacas, it is good to know ahead of time what the intended use will be. Alpacas raised strictly for fiber will produce more fiber than one used for breeding. That is not to say you cannot use a breeding animal for fleece; the production will just be less. Alpacas which are not of breeding quality may still be used for fleece; all alpaca fleece is valuable but the finer the fleece the more it's worth. Items such as rugs or felted projects may be made from the courser fleece (which still feels very soft).
The gestation of an alpaca is on average 11 - 11.5 months. That time may be shorter or longer, depending on the individual animal. Occasionally it lingers on for 12 months. The baby alpaca is called a cria, and is born during daylight hours. This eliminates the need to be checking females in the middle of the night (unlike cows). Cria average about 12 - 15 pounds when born, and are usually nursing within an hour. It doesn't take them long to find their legs and start to run around.
Business or Hobby?
Many alpaca breeders start out with a few animals which they consider to be their hobby. If managed properly, raising alpacas can be a full time business. As with any business, there are benefits and tax deductions for the alpaca farmer. They are also completely insurable, which means their value is paid to the owner should anything happen to them. Keep all receipts for equipment and expenses incurred when travelling to shows and fairs, as well as day to day care. It may surprise you when you begin to earn a profit from your alpacas in a short time.